Santa Maria Times: Child Care: The quiet backbone of the workforce and economy | Chamber Commentary

Over the past several years, Children’s Resource & Referral of Santa Barbara County (CRR) and Early Childhood Education partners have built momentum in Santa Barbara County around child care expansion and facilities, and the recent ARPA Grant from the County of Santa Barbara.

The grant was awarded to Santa Barbara Foundation, CRR, and Santa Barbara County Education Office to support the kick-off of what we dream of Build UP Santa Barbara!

This grant will enable Children’s Resource & Referral to create 600 new child care spaces in Santa Barbara County, with nearly 73% of those spaces designated for infants and toddlers, a much-needed service in our community.

COVID-19 caused such a vast path of destruction in our communities, country, and world. People lost their lives, their loved ones, their jobs; schools have been closed, many businesses and so on. The one constant in our community that has undoubtedly served as a quiet backbone to the workforce and the economy is child care.

Our economy cannot build up without a continuum and substantial investment in child care. Having available, accessible, safe, nurturing, quality child care is vital for our communities.

Continuity and quality of child care provides security for children and their families. As this relates to children ages zero to five, the growth of a child’s brain across all domains is rapid and cumulative.

We know that healthy development and quality early learning environments play a vital role in later learning. Continuity is necessary to ensure that children's experiences in early care and education settings contribute steadily to a child’s developmental milestones and that early identification of developmental delays can be addressed.

Advocating for high-quality early learning environments locally and state-wide has proven to bring more awareness to the importance of child care spaces and high-quality learning environments.

In fiscal year 22-23 CRR;

  • Licensed a record number of family child care businesses, creating 61 new licenses, resulting in 488 new family child care spaces for children in Santa Barbara County!
  • Opened a child care center: WINGS Preschool in May of 2023 where we are serving 60 children ages 2-5.
  • Partnered with Women’s Economic Ventures, building from our Steps to Quality Program, funded by Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, and supported 25 newly licensed child care providers in a 10-week business development series. Each participant was awarded with a record number $7,500 worth of high-quality early learning materials that directly improved the quality of their programs. We are happy to share that we are running a second cohort this year with another 25 child care providers!
  • Supported a record number of 60 family child care providers to participate in the Quality Counts program, where high-quality environments, led by expert CRR coaches are developed into meaningful, impactful, resourceful, and sustainable services to the children and families in our community!
  • Provided 12 months of child care subsidy for 1,600 children to access child care while their parents looked for or went to work.
  • Provided over 45 hours of free professional development to child care providers to increase quality and develop support systems to ensure teachers are equipped, and children are nurtured while in care.
  • While child care remains the quiet backbone of the workforce and the economy, CRR is dedicated and determined to advocate for inclusive, quality, accessible, child care by developing county-wide systems, building best practices for policymakers, and advocating for the most important, valuable, and vulnerable people in our community: the children.

If you are looking for child care, need financial assistance to pay for child care, or are interested in obtaining your own family child care license, you can visit CRR’s website at or call 805-925-7071.

Jacqui Banta is the chief operating officer for Children’s Resource & Referral of Santa Barbara County and has been with them for six years. Jacqui holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in human services: executive leadership, and is in the process of obtaining her doctorate in strategic leadership.

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